Corporate Interests Are The Only Interests The Roberts Court Protects

With the results of yesterdays primaries including big wins for wealthy candidates like former Hewlett-Packard Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina came a quiet yet devastating blow to campaign finance laws courtesy of the Roberts court.  On Tuesday the Court barred officials in Arizona from providing matching funds to candidates for state office who accept public financing.  The Arizona law was designed to help candidates keep pace with the unlimited public spending of those candidates who forgo public campaign funds.

Like most campaign finance measures, the Arizona law was established by the state’s voters in 1998 after a series of election scandals like AzScam, in which multiple state legislators were recorded accepting contributions and bribes in exchange for passing gambling legislation.  The law that the Supreme Court struck down gave qualifying candidates a lump-sum grant for their primary or general election races so long as the candidates agree not to raise large private contributions.  If an opposing candidate is not participating in the system and spends more than the lump-sum grant, the participating candidate qualifies for those additional matching funds.

But the Goldwater Institute and other conservative interest groups representing well-financed candidates did not like those matching funds and challenged them on constitutional grounds.  The candidates and their backing-interest groups argued that the matching funds violated the First Amendment by “chilling” their freedom of speech.  According to the complaint well-financed candidates were afraid to spend more than the limit that triggered the funds for fear of triggering those funds.  A lower court agreed, but the Ninth Circuit wasn’t buying it holding that the challengers claim wasn’t that they have been silenced, but that the speech of their (less well-financed) opponents had been enabled.

Rather than providing any clarity on this issue the Supreme Court instead provided a terse, unsigned order that reinstates a trial court injunction barring those additional matching fund payments.  The decision has already been the subject of intense criticism as another illustration of the activist reach of the Roberts court since it was purely optional for the Court to take action immediately, let alone in the middle of the election season.  It also appears to be part of the natural evolution of the Citizens United decision which lifted limits corporations could spend on candidate campaigns.  The New York Times came out with a blistering editorial, stating “[i]t seems likely that the Roberts court will use this case to continue its destruction of the laws and systems set up in recent decades to reduce the influence of big money in politics.  By the time it is finished, millionaires and corporations will have regained an enormous voice in American politics, at the expense of candidates who have to raise money they old-fashioned way and, ultimately, at the expense of voters.”

The Times is spot on in this point, for the damage done by the Roberts court here is not on the behalf of the Republicans over Democrats, but at corporate interests over the interests of average Americans.  One of the victims of this most recent decision is Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer who faces a very well financed challenger.  As we’ve seen with health care legislation, financial services regulation, and most tragically with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, neither Democrats nor Republicans are above the corporate cash that fuels their campaigns, and savvy corporate interests donate to both major parties in hopes of creating the most favorable legislative and regulatory environment for their business.  More and more the interests of business trump the interests of people, and if the Roberts court continues to have its say, things will only get worse.

photo courtesy of stopnlook via Flickr


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat7 years ago


Susan S.
Susan Songheim7 years ago

Before you jump over Justice Roberts and every justice you do not like. Read the decision FIRST. Here is it:

There is so much to jump over people. I find it refreshing many of you do not find the documents and read to find out what it is. A society that does not seek knowledge and read the information are like children that feel they being led without knowing the direction as to where they are going. You can not rely on the media. Find the information and make your decision on what you find. Read the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission before jumping to conclusions. Here is again. Please read the decision. I can not stress this enough.

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham7 years ago

If you don't like politicians who take corporate campaign contributions, DON'T FREAKIN' VOTE FOR THEM!!!!! How many of you voted for Obama, after he promised to take only government funding and then went ahead and took corporate donations anyway? If there is a problem with corporations and there money in politics, GO LOOK IN A MIRROR. YOU are the problem.

Money does NOT buy votes. Money buys access to the ear of the voters, but politicians are STILL required to say where the money comes from, and every voter can find out who is taking money from what companies. If the voters of this country really think it's a problem, if YOU really seriously think it's a problem, then it will stop because you won't vote for people who do it.

You are not stupid, and neither are the people of this country. Stop trying to play daddy, and ***practice*** what you ***preach***!

Skip C.
Skip C7 years ago

Yeah, sure - Well, I own stock in a number of these "eee-vile" American corporations. I have built my retirement nest egg, which admittedly is not very big, on careful investment. Corporations are formed and owned by people. We as stock holders-owners combine together in annual meetings to express our desires, collectively, for the political direction & expressions of opinion our company adopts. We are no different than any other group - unions, non-profits or care2, in that respect. Corporations are legally "persons" - freedom of speech preciously, and thankfully, applies. SCOTUS reaffirmed that right!

Erin R.
Erin R7 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Suzy White
Suzy White7 years ago

The problem is that American corporations are owned by foreigners who seek control of the US through dubious "legal" peaceful means. BP is only the tip of the iceberg. The answer is not to boycott corporations, but to BUY AMERICAN and, more importantly, avoid buying non-American goods. American made products, made from American materials on American soil by American CITIZEN workers. A little protectionism would go a long way here towards turning the economy around. (Do they still teach what protectionism is in high school?) Oh, and don't forget, most of the stuff at Walmart, Target, etc. is made in China. Check the tag on everything you buy. Boycott that foreign stuff if you want to make a statement. Remember when Walmart's mantra was "Made in America"?
This includes food, too. Check Walmart's frozen shrimp...comes from Vietnam. The frozen tilapia...from fish farms in China. And loads of foodstuffs from South America. That's the stuff to boycott, and create some real jobs in America manufacturing real, tangible products.

Sorry pencil-pushers and might need to get your hands dirty for a change doing some actual work...

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

This should surprise no one. The nail was in the coffin for the American people when this court gave greater parity to corporations with human beings.

Thomas Lee B.
Thomas Lee B7 years ago

"The cause of the poor and the widow is not heard."--Isaiah

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And the Ayn Rand crowd pretends the Gospel of Greed is new.